Past Forward
When B-Town came calling…
2011 saw a bevy of Bollywood stars descend on city beautiful. From Katrina, Kareena, Vidya Balan to Shah Rukh Khan, B-town guests were a regular throughout the year

Punjabi roots: Kareena Kapoor It started with a bang and ended with a blast. Year 2011 catapulted Chandigarh from Tier-II city to one that matters; at least as far as film promotions are concerned. How else would one explain that every actor who rules Bollywood showed up in the city — be it the rising Rockstar Ranbir Kapoor or the Don Shah Rukh Khan! With leading ladies in tow, Chandigarh has had a glimpse of Katrina, Kareena to Vidya Balan. Here's recounting the 'celeb' moments of 2011.

In January, the Deol clan came calling for the promotion of Yamla Pagla Deewana and the true-blue actor Dharmendra won many a heart with his humble approach in life. The three Deols also promised to make more public appearances, guess that's how Bobby Deol rounded up the year by showing up last week in Chandigarh for the promotion of his upcoming action-thriller Players!

The rest of Bollywood took a cue from the Deols and made an 'appearance' in Chandigarh. Bollywood idols flowed (actually flew) in streams throughout the year.

Super hero: Shah Rukh KhanIf there was a high point, it has to be May-June when Bollywood heartthrob Salman Khan and King Khan Shah Rukh came calling within a week of each other's visit. Both the momentous 'moments' were starkly different from each other. A long wait, crowded corridors, people getting impatient and then the grand appearances - both events got etched in fans' memories forever. One humble, another arrogant, smooth-talker versus a rude one, one for Ready another for Ra.One, there was just one similarity amongst the two ruling Khans…love, respect and admiration for the fans. If Salman was a little rough with media (we are used to it now), he was very humble with fans, comfortably got clicked with girls, women, men and kids. So was Shah Rukh, offering a hand to shake even to the attendant manning the lift!

It became a double treat as Shah Rukh again made a brief appearance for Don 2 in December. Though the same wit, he looked older minus a bit of spunk in his Don's pony avatar'.

The looks, of course, matter in the industry…when Ranbir Kapoor came promoting Rockstar he wore his 'rock' look. "The intense look in the movie has been planned by Imtiaz and his team," said Ranbir.

Looks were disappointing though when Vidya Balan came for the promotion of her Dirty Picture. Chandigarh missed the red hot sexy sari. Reason: "I would have loved to come in a sari, but I did not have time for it today," said Vidya who came clad in polka-dotted green top, with huge sunglasses. With Vidya's exception, most of the Bollywood beauties showed up dressed in Indian attires — be it Kareena Kapoor who claimed her Punjabi roots.

Chitrangada Singh and Deepika Padukone, who accompanied Khiladi Kumar for Desi Boys, also stood out. Though we did miss the brawny John Abraham, the beauties attired in suits kept us entertained. Akshay may be a male 'escort' on screen but off screen it's his grounded, self-assured and familial side that came to the fore. The hottest was probably the Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara team. Brilliant actor-director Farhan Akhtar with hunk Abhay Deol and 'oh so proper' Katrina Kaif (both in looks and act) were a delight!

New and old alike (we did have a share of junior Bachchan, rising fashionista Sonam Kapoor, Czarina of television soaps-turned-filmmaker Ekta Kapoor to the young team of Pyar Ka Panchnama), screen idols kept us busy. One of the few missed badly was Hrithik Roshan. But then folks what is 2012 for?

A writer’s journey
Bestselling author Ravinder Singh's second novel Can Love Happen Twice? has been received pretty well in the ten days of its being in print. He shares the secret…

Pen friend: Ravinder Singh Photo: Manoj Mahajan December 2008; Ravinder Singh, a sad, self-effacing new author shared his first novel and the love story that led to it. Three years on, Ravinder looks the same but is rather confident after he has penned another 'love story'.

"Can you imagine the new book has already sold over one lakh copies within the first week of the release," says the young author, in Chandigarh for the launch.

As we sit over a glass of water (he is comfortable only with home-cooked food in his hometown he clarifies), Ravinder unfolds the second story.

Can Love Happen Twice? is an inviting name and so is Ravinder's beginning, "A mad, wild truck killed my story; there are many who do that to themselves."

He elaborates. "Post the success of I Too Had A Love Story, I got thousands of mails. Readers connected to the sad end to my story and shared their stories. But strangely, in most cases it wasn't an accident that became the nemesis," says Ravinder, in a thoughtful state.

Readers wanted to know what happened with Ravin (I Too Had A Love Story's protagonist) and that how my new story began."

Situations landed at Ravinder's doors in mails, e-mails, scraps as well as calls, and this techie (he has worked with Infosys and is now pursuing MBA from Indian School of Business, Hyderabad) sat down to imagine how Ravin would have reacted if put in such scenarios.

The result is Can Love Happen Twice?, the 216-page fiction released by Penguin (priced at Rs 125). "Today it takes two minutes flat to say 'I Love You'. But the complexities that come with it — career, relationship tangles, adjustments — end up in break-ups," says Ravinder.

It's easy to break up but what are the reasons that lead to it is what Ravinder's novel explores. The plot starts from Chandigarh, five years on from where the first book ended.

"My first book was written as a compulsion to get over my loss; second is dedicated to my readers," says Ravinder. Writing the second one wasn't easy. "I am pursuing an MBA and the course demands complete attention. The book is written between post midnight to somewhere till four in the morning as I struggled to meet course as well as publisher's deadlines," he clarifies.

A lakh copies! Should be some kind of record? "Well, it is," says Ravin and we clearly remember that he shared three years back, 'Marketing my book well is my top priority at present'.

Successful in that, Ravinder shares the secret, "The first book's success was due to the fact that it touched chords. Readers could relate to it. I waited for some time to make a reader base before I started another book. I waited, as they say, for the fruit to ripen. And the best has been talking to my readers. The most valuable investment has been the time that I spend with my readers each day of the year."

And what's next? "Please don't expect it to be a love story," he laughs, "lots of fresh ideas are knocking at the door, so let's see."

Strategy Wise

Ravinder Singh's two fictional works have taken the market by storm - if the first one found base in patrons, the new one utilises the radio space. We see a marketing tactic. "Well, I am an MBA," says Ravinder. "I was at the other end of the table three years back. First book, no known publisher and no money to splurge," shares Ravinder, whose book is being endorsed by RED FM extensively. "I am proud to say that when the news got out that I am penning another book, each known publisher approached me. But all in all I cannot deny my readers' role. I salute them; some of them read my book in one go!" says the author. As for Ravinder, he takes at least six months to finish any tome!

Game for more
It's not always about the actors, directors and producers; the technicians involved in the process of film-making are equally important. And it's for sure becoming the preferred choice of many youngsters
Manpriya Khurana

Script Savvy: Sam Verma Actor, model, singer…not very long ago, that's all we dreamt of as tweens and teens. Cinematographer, assistant editor, executive producer were just the designations we went through while accidentally running into the credit rolls…did anyone aspire to be a casting director even a decade back?

There are the guys who go location-hunting or even looking for a perfect tea stall vendor to fit into the railway platform scene…the mustard fields in full bloom that bring home the Indian diaspora settled abroad, are well-thought over locations. "It all began with the movie West is West, which was shot here. At the time I was just a 'runner'. People who arrange for last-minute things to fit into any frame or shot. So I'd be running on my bike and arranging for random things like a traditional cot," Sunny Sheoran (22), production manager, The Theatre Army, recalls how he got inducted into the profession.

Pretty much similar is the story of Sam Verma (23) who is pursuing bachelor's course in media technology, "I joined a production house around a year-and-half ago, where I assisted in the production during the shooting of Mausam. The experience helped me generate interest in the field." The rest, as they say, is history. He adds, "Now film-editing, as it is, is my hobby, while professionally I want to get into direction."

The reasons for transition are not hard to find - the gradual shift from blind wishlist to practical dreams. "One of the reasons is that we have so many film and television institutes and colleges opening up. Youngsters feel they might not have the perfect body and looks, but they can still be a part of the entertainment industry," opines Yogesh Kumar, who's dabbled as a camera person, done theatre and is open to cinematography. He adds, "I'm exploring a lot of options, whichever works out the best." That's not all. Shares Sunny, "Earlier, we saw only these actors and models on screen. Everybody thought that was the end of it. With proper exposure, youngsters came to know that making of a film is a different world altogether. The technicians earn just as much and now we have recognition for their work. Did we ever have awards for the best cinematographer and the like earlier?"

Fast forward to present, the men behind the dance moves are celebrities in their own right. Adds Sam, "For the past so many years, a lot of Bollywood and Punjabi movies are being made in this part of the region. Chandigarh is a hot-shot location; eversince these teams of technicians started coming here the exposure increased." With the bare basics in place, everything else fell in place. Kajal Dutta, freelance casting director from the region, says "Now, not everyone wants to be an actor or an anchor; youngsters with talent know what field will work for them. So it doesn't raise eyebrows any more when someone is heard saying that they want to be a set designer." Reflects the scenario right, no?

TIE-d up
Although the tie will remain a favourite forever, scarves, stoles and mufflers are also catching the eye of men who value style
Jigyasa Kapoor Chimra

How far can we go when we think of men accessories? Well, the hunt ends at ties, scarves and cufflinks; but the world of men has come past these obvious trimmings (though we don't intend to say they are out of fashion) and has sailed into tying a sexy silk scarf or a floral pattern muffler!

Talking accessories for men, the choice is not as varied as that for women but it is decent enough. Ties are no doubt the uncontested winner for many, but most of the youngsters today prefer 'no ties'. The market is brimming with both the options — ties in varied patterns for the father and scarves, stoles, mufflers etc for the son!

"Men prefer stripes and even floral patterns in ties," says an employee with Peter England in Sector 17. He adds, "For the colours, its vibrant hues that are liked more than nudes, but black remains an all-time favourite. Silk and raw silk ties in colours like maroon, pink, yellow and royal blue too are much-liked." Though leather and ties that have a touch of velvet were seen at the International fashion shows, we haven't come across those in Chandigarh so far.

Van Heusen is another place where you can look for a wonderful variety of ties; here the patterns are more contemporary and colours vivid.

Well, ties are a must for formal dinners and the best accompaniment of a suit, so they can never go out of fashion although trends keep changing. In addition, the market is replete with scarves, stoles and mufflers. "Considering that men have gone stylish, for this winter we have silk stoles for them," says Puneet from Fabindia. Talking about the designs and patterns, she says, "They are available in plain bold colours and other than that, we have checks and stripes in chanderi, batik and other prints. As for the colours, they are a mix of bright and neutral shades for everyone does not prefer bright shades."

For mufflers the variety is unlimited — from checks to stripes to even floral and paisley designs. The fabric too varies from mixed wool to pure and even cashmere to heavy knits. Brands like Espirit, Tommy and Benetton offer a wide variety to choose from.

Bundle of joy
Aamir can’t get enough of his newborn

If there's anything that actor Aamir Khan loves doing these days, it is spending time and playing with his newborn son, Azad. "It's a great joy being a father again. Both Kiran and I are so overjoyed with our baby being born and I just can't get enough of Azad," Aamir said at an event here.

The 46-year-old and his wife Kiran Rao were blessed with the baby boy December 1, through IVF to a surrogate mother. Aamir is simply in awe of their little bundle of joy. "I tickle his little toe and then I snuggle up to him. Right now he doesn't even know who I am. He's too young but he knows that somebody comes and troubles him everyday. Every two, three hours somebody comes and troubles him. So, when he gets a little older, he will get to know that I am the guy," said Aamir, who already has two kids from his first wife Reena — a son, Junaid, and a daughter named Ira. — IANS

Leftist theory
For happiness, sleep on your bed’s left side

Ever thought the side of the bed one slept in could actually be determining happiness in your life? A new research has found that individuals sleeping on the left side of their bed led a happy and less stressful life.

Those who snuggle up for the night on the left are generally more cheerful and positive. The survey revealed that a quarter of people revealed having a bright outlook on life, compared to just 18 per cent of the people who said they slept on the right side of the bed. Such people were also found to be better at handling heavy workloads and stress. Two-thirds of the people sleeping on the left side said they were calmer than their partner in a crisis.

Those sleeping on the bed's right side more often tend to wake up in a bad mood, the survey found, adding that people who prefer the left side of the bed tend to have more confidence and are more likely to be in permanent employment than those preferring the right side.

However, while right-hand siders tend to earn more, those sleeping on the left are happiest at work. In the survey commissioned by hotel group Premier Inn, a third said they loved their jobs, compared to just 18 percent of their right equivalents. — IANS

A cakewalk!
What is Christmas without plum cakes? Going by the number of cake mixing ceremonies though traditional plum cake is still the hot favourite, bakers come up with others options too
Jigyasa Kapoor Chimra

It’s the season of jingle bells, Santa Claus, pine trees and the colour red, but nothing spells Chirstmas better then cakes, cookies and puddings. And since it’s Christmas, how can we not talk about the intoxicating whiff of brown dates, black raisins, red cherries, cashew nuts, topped with cardamom, pepper and other secret spices.

Christmas is no fun without the traditional cake; and making this cake is no quick and easy task. Preparations begin months in advance. The first step towards making the cake is the mixing process, formally called the cake mixing ceremony, a ritual followed the world over and said to be a harbinger of good tidings and happiness and it’s the Christian families in the city who bring alive the rich tradition for us, heralding the spirit of the festival.

But cake is not the only thing we see during X-mas. We have a host of ‘sweet somethings’ spreading the cheer of X-mas. Neeta Sukhija from Hotel Icon-8 says, “Plum cake is an obvious choice but other than that we have Yule logs, apple cinnamon, date walnut and ginger bread cookies.” All traditional stuff sells like ‘hot cakes’ during this season.

Talking about the tradition of cake mixing ceremony and the sweetness of the traditional plum cake, Shelly John, a homemaker from sector-37, says, “The cake-mixing ceremony is done days ahead of the season. Dry fruits, nuts are soaked in wine and liquor, mixed thoroughly and kept for maturation for a few weeks. This age-old tradition dates back to the 17th century in Europe marking the arrival of the harvest season. Originally it’s a family affair, but now it’s become a social event as organisations do it to spread camaraderie and goodwill.”

Going by the history of cake mixing ceremony, after kneading, the mixture was emptied into large containers and stored away till just a couple of days before Christmas, with occasional stirring, to ensure the nuts soak till they are tender. Topped with crispy caramel, at the end it makes for a lip-smacking dessert.

Nodding to the trend of mixing the ingredients some two months prior to the festival, Nikhil from Nik Bakers, says, “Plum cake is the traditional cake for the festival, but other than this we have fruit cakes, X-mas cookies in the shape of tree, santa, ginger bread house cake, cream cakes in shape of Santa, star, pine tress too.” 

Though cakes make the festival complete, it’s the special ingredients in these cakes that make them different from the usual. Priya Garg, director, Ovenfresh, says, “Though the baking of cakes remain the same, it’s the ingredients especially the spices that make these cakes rich. And since it’s winter time, the spices used are warm like cinnamon, nuts, raisins etc making it a wholesome and delicious.”

Available with them are host of cakes and cookies, including the traditional plum cake, dry cakes and Christmas puddings. So, go and take your fill!

Colours of life
Sabia Talwar

Painting by Anjana Birla Anjana Birla, a lecturer by profession, has put up her first solo painting exhibition at the Punjab Kala Bhawan, Sector 16, Chandigarh, and at the first glance it doesn’t seem to like a first attempt!

Says Anjana, “I was into painting since childhood; my cousins encouraged me and we used to paint a lot of banners. I have always liked colours.” She adds, “When I made the paintings, I never thought that I will showcase them ever.” What inspires her to paint? “I like to paint simple emotions, nature and especially the figure of Lord Buddha, which intrigues me a lot. Whatever is beautiful, I try to paint it.” And how does the artist define beauty? “You can’t define beauty, as it lies in the eyes of the beholder.”

Painting by Anjana BirlaAnjana has in her ensemble thirty oil paintings, which she has been collecting since her tenth class. “Oil paintings are easier to make; on the other hand water paintings are easier to handle,” says Anjana.

The showcase starts with a blue-coloured background painting with white birds and is titled Udaan. Then there is one where two birds are chatting on a tree and the slip beside titles it as Rendezvous. “Birds are easier to make and I have been drawing them since my school days.”

The subject of one painting is female feoticide – it shows a scared girl in her mother’s womb and hands that are ready to end her life. Then there is a line of portraits— Indira Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Lata Mangeshkar, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Sania Mirza and the last one that says — Who’s next?“When I became a mother, I felt bad because of the increasing rate of female foeticide.” She adds, “Portraits are quite difficult to make.”

Some of her abstract paintings give out a clear message of harmony and life. Aks is the portrait of a nude lady and an eye showing her reflection. “I painted this to show that you will see a thing according to your perception.”

In the comfort zone

The youth brigade is raring to take on the world. While striving for achievements, they are not to be left behind whereas fashion is concerned. Trends which are global too, are being adopted with panache and it seems we have become one big world as far as haute couture is concerned. An MBA and qualified in diamond grading, Lovish Arora shares her sense of style.

Your sense of style

Style for me is what brings out the best in a person and makes him feel comfortable while following what’s the latest in the fashion world. At the end of it all it is how you carry yourself that matters.

Latest  addition to your treasure of clothing or accessories…

A Christan Dior bag.

Brand crazy or street pick-ups?

Totally a brand person.

 Your style icon would be…

I like people who experiment with their looks and for that Kareena Kapoor is the best.

Who do you think is the worst-dressed celebrity?

Vidya Balan. Though she is popular but her sense of dressing is atrocious.

Which look would your prefer–sporty, chic or glamorous


One fashion trend that goes beyond your comprehension…

Arabian pants and polo garments for daily wear

Your take on accessories?

Accessories are vital to create the complete look but r should not be worn in excess. For me a good pair of earrings is a good enough accessory.

What gives you a high on the confidence level?

I feel confident when I am looking slim. And of course, my education really boosts my confidence as nothing compares to good education.

(As told to Poonam Bindra)

Master Chef
Sweetness of carrot
Vibha Pahwa

Did you know the history of this festive delicacy carrot cake? According to food historians, our modern carrot cake, most likely, descended from the middle ages in Europe, when sweeteners were scarce and expensive, carrots were used in sweet cakes and desserts. In Britain carrot puddings often appeared in recipe books in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting

Ingredients for the cake:

125 gms       butter

175 gms       sugar

150 gms       flour

11/2 tspn baking powder

3                   eggs

2 largecarrots grated

1 tspn mixed spices

50 ml pineapple/apple Juice

50 gms      nuts

Handful of raisins

Ingredients for cream cheese frosting:

100 gms   Amul cheese spread

100 ml      Amul cream

100 gms   icing sugar

1 tbsp       lemon juice

Method for the cake:

Mix the room temperature soft butter and sugar with a hand beater till its light and fluffy. Add eggs one by one till the mixture is mixed well. Now, add the nuts, raisins and grated carrots. Lastly add the flour, baking powder and mixed spices. Mix the above mentioned ingredients well but do not over beat. Add apple/pineapple juice till the mixture is smooth and flowing. Pour the batter in a lined 8” inch tin and bake for about 45 minutes at 175 degrees. 

Method for the cream cheese frosting:

Beat the cheese spread with the cream till nice and fluffy. Add lemon juice to it and mix well. Finally add the icing sugar.

For garnishing

Marzipan carrots

Roasted flaked almonds

When the cake is ready and cold, drizzle the cream cheese frosting till it covers the entire cake generously.

Decorate with marzipan baby carrots or roasted flaked almonds.

(Pahwa is a Ludhiana and Delhi based pastry chef)

As told to Poonam Bindra

High Spirits
Mountain melter
Vineet Mishra

Regardless to say, this cocktail's guaranteed to melt in your mouth and give the pleasure of your life.


- 45 ml Fuel Orange Vodka

- 120 ml hot coffee

- 30 ml Monin creme de coco

- ground cinnamon

- whipped cream


Pour all ingredients in a coffee mug. Top with whipped cream and sprinkle cinnamon.

Cocktail Jokes

They say milk is good, have five glasses a day-it gives u strength...try moving a wall can't. Have 5 shots of vodka and see the wall moving on its own....!

Mishra is director of

green thumb
Christmas plants
Satish Narula

This is the week with yuletide spirit. The churches are being decorated and so are the homes. Not many people know that there are plants associated with Christianity. Let us decorate our homes with such plants this winter.

The most sought after plant in this season is Araucaria cooki, the 'Christmas tree' that is used to decorate with dolls, cotton for snow, small toy bells, stars, lights and many such material available in market. The horizontal to the ground twigs support such material well. The plant leaves are needle like and give a pine forest look when decorated with 'snow'.

Red is the most sought after colour in flowering plants this season. The red 'flowering' poinsettia is named as the International symbol of Christmas. This is due to the appearance of deep red bunch of 'blooms' at the top of plants at the time of Christmas. This plant is available in two forms, one, the bracts are single as a whorl at the top of the stem and secondly these are in the form of a bunch at the top and the variety available in the market is 'Fireball'. Also available from the local nurseries is the hybrid kind that hardly grows to one foot or so in the pot with all red top. A mass display of such pots puts the place on fire. This belongs to Euphorbia family, the plants that give latex when injured. There is this misconception that it's a poisonous plant. Well, shed the fear as it may be skin irritating to only those who are allergic to latex.

Another member of euphorbia group has also great significance so far as Christianity is concerned. It is Euphorbia splendense (see the accompanying picture). It is in fact the improved version of the old type that had thin trailing stem running parallel to the ground and bearing two to four deep red flowers at the tip. This plant is supposed to be the 'Crown of Thorns' worn by Jesus and the red 'drop' like flowers are the drop of blood. The plant is revered and has compassionate significance. Now, however, the breeding has made it possible to have different hues of bold flowers and they are available in white, orange, yellow, pink etc. Such colours are for decoration only.

Those living in hills have the opportunity to decorate their homes with red geranium vines that can be used as basket plants.

(Narula is a Chandigarh-based horticulturist)

Pigeons can count too

Phrases like being a bird-brain may require a new explanation with researchers in New Zealand having discovered that pigeons can actually count as well as monkeys. Scientists at the University of Otago in New Zealand have shown that pigeons can compare pairs of images picturing up to nine objects and even order them by the lower to higher number with a success rate above chance, the Daily Mail reported.

According to Damian Scarf, the study's lead author, until now only humans and primates were thought to share the ability to use abstract numerical rules in this way. "Our research not only shows that pigeons are also members of this exclusive club, but, somewhat surprisingly, their performance is on a par with that of monkeys," he said.

For the study, the researchers initially trained the pigeons by presenting them with 35 sets of three images, each with one, two, or three objects of different sizes, colours and shapes. On pecking the images in the correct ascending sequence, they were rewarded with wheat. — IANS

Why mom wakes up when the baby turns

Ever wondered why new mothers wake up in the middle of the night when their baby stirs while the dads usually carry on fast asleep? The reason lies in the phase of attaining motherhood, suggests a new study.

According to researchers pregnancy changes a woman's brain to allow her to cope with the demands of motherhood and be more attuned to her baby's needs. Expectant mothers experience massive hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy — more than at any other time in their lives, the researchers add. — IANS

Rahman goes romantic

Music maestro: AR Rahman AR Rahman has composed the music for Vinaayithaandi Varuvaaya and also for its Hindi remake titled Ek Deewana Tha starring Prateik and Amy Jackson. Ek Deewana Tha is his first romantic album since Jaane Tu Yaa Jaane Naa as Rockstar had a mix of musical genres.

In love

I love love and am talking beyond girls. I am a romantic at heart and that is what keeps me going and love is what gives me the ability to compose music and live in today's world.

Soul of music

We had to make changes in the Hindi album but I retained the soul of the music. The lyrics had to be changed and Javed Saab gave us wonderful lyrics. We had to adapt the tunes and some words for a broader audience.

Rockstar rocks

I knew that Rockstar's music would grow on people. I felt very happy recently when people requested me to play Saadda haq at the Dubai Film Festival. Kun Faaya Kun is also a hit but we felt the need to include peppier music like Katiya karoon and Hawa hawa. I am very happy with the way the music and the film have been appreciated.

Reinventing self

I try to reinvent my music all the time. I am writing the script of my first film and it is 90 per cent complete. I will talk about it later. I like doing out-of-the-box things.

Director speaks

Simple man: Vidhu Vinod Chopra Vidhu Vinod Chopra is frank, blunt, and he is also called arrogant and hot-headed. He clears misconceptions and talks cinema.

Ferrari Ki Sawari

This film is based on an incident that happened between my son Agni and me. It is about a father-son relationship. I chose Rajesh Mapsukar to direct it even though he has not even made a five-minute video ever. I tested him before choosing him. I wanted to cast a big actor in the film but I cast Sharman Joshi and there is a reason behind it. I saw his test tape when I was in LA and I met him. His test was mind-blowing and I had to cast him! He left me no choice. It was my gut instinct to cast him and I went with it.

No pretense

I am a very straight-forward and private person. I go with my gut feelings. I am a simple man. I don't attend premieres because I cannot lie to people. I have even abused my own assistant directors if I didn't like their films. I have fought with LK Advani, actors, journalists, and film critics. This is just the way I am. There is no need to pretend for me.

On Vidya

She has come from my stable and I am very proud of her achievements. She has come into her own league now. I tested her for Parineeta 31 times before I cast her. She must have been frustrated by the end of it but it was a good decision.

Direction again

I know I have not directed since Eklavya in 2007 but direction is my first love. I am writing 50vi Saalgirah right now and I will direct it and I will also direct Broken Horses.

A cut above the rest
We take a look at the memorable performances by actors in Bollywood this year

Ranbir Kapoor Ranbir Kapoor in Rockstar: This is his finest performance till date and we know he will only get better. Ranbir was the soul of this beautiful, soul-stirring romantic film. He fitted the role completely and nobody else could have done it better than him.

Hrithik RoshanHrithik Roshan in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

Once we got over how handsome he looked, we appreciated his straight-from-the-heart performance and the way his character transformed in Zoya's lovely movie.

Farhan Akhtar in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

He was the least experienced actor in the movie but he stole the show with his wisecracks and poems. This guy is superbly gifted and he was effortlessly spontaneous as Imran and brought out his layers beautifully.


Jimmy ShergillJimmy Shergill in Saheb Biwi aur Gangster

He is seriously under-rated as an actor and he got his due with his brilliant and regal performance in this acclaimed and intriguing film.

Rajeev KhandelwalRajeev Khandelwal in Shaitan

He made a comeback with this movie and we were absolutely in awe of his powerful performance of a no-nonsense cop. Superb stuff!

Arunoday Singh in Yeh Saali Zindagi

He silenced all his critics with his raw and violent act of a passionate and foul-mouthed gangster in this superb caper flick by Sudhir Mishra. He had crackling chemistry with Aditi Rao Hydari.

Arjun Rampal in Ra.One

His role was barely half an hour long but he made a huge impact. He looked wicked and that completed half his job. He had the best line in the movie about killing Raavan repeatedly. He made Ra.One very charismatic and even fearsome.


Lady Gaga and reincarnation
Singer Lady Gaga says she is the reincarnation of her aunt

Aunt reborn : Lady Gaga The singer, known for her wacky outfits, feels she has two hearts and her spiritual beliefs have made people think she is crazy. "I believe that I had a reincarnation and believe that you can be reborn over and over again. I believe I was my father's sister and her spirit is with me. I believe I am her reincarnation. When I talk about this in America they look at me like I am crazy," a website quoted Gaga as saying.

"My middle name is Joanne, which is my dad's sister's name, and her middle name is Stephanie, which is my birth name. It all just kind of comes together in this interesting way. Whenever I see my grandmother or my family, they say: "You look so much like her"," she said.

"And I believe she had so much unfinished business on this Earth. She was a poet, writer and painter. I have two hearts and one is hers. I am grateful to God. I am a spiritual person and I thank God for my voice and music," she added. — IANS

Mane fuss

A celebrity hair stylist has criticised actress Angelina Jolie for letting her six-year-old daughter Zahara getting hair extensions. "She is far too young for that, and Angelina is creating insecurity in the little girl that what she has is not good enough, a website quoted DaRico Jackson as saying.

"Growing up with siblings who have long flowing hair, Zahara may grow to feel that her own natural hair is not pretty enough, and that without the fake hair she is not beautiful. She should be made to embrace who she is," she said.

Zahara was pictured sporting new hair extensions when stepping out in Las Vegas with parents Jolie and Brad Pitt and siblings.

Jackson said Zahara's natural hair was enough to be braided. — IANS

Milestone year for Ricky

Birthday boy: Ricky Martin Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin is turning 40 and to help him celebrate, his millions of fans are putting together on social networks the 40 most memorable things about the artist.

These key moments and happenings in the artist's life have been tweeted on Twitter over the past five weeks via the hashtag #TSARM, or 'There's Something About Ricky Martin.'

The 'somethings' go from his first steps as an artist when he sang into a tablespoon pretending it was a microphone, to his two sons, Matteo and Valentino, born in 2008 of the artificial insemination of a surrogate mother. — IANS

Christmas charity

Playing Santa for the needy: Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux Hollywood actress Jennifer Aniston and her boyfriend Justin Theroux have donated money to a children's hospital in lieu of sending gifts to them for the Christmas. A website reports that they handed over an undisclosed amount to US-based St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and an animal organisation, to mark the holiday.

"We wish you and your family a holiday season full of happiness and joy. A donation has been made in your name to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and Best Friends Animal Society. With warmth and love, Jen and Justin," read the greeting from the couple. — IANS

Daddy's Daughter: Gwyneth Paltrow Gwyneth's pancake memories

Actress Gwyneth Paltrow says she cries while eating pancakes as they remind her of her late father, Bruce Paltrow.

The 39-year-old always loved breakfast food cooked by Bruce, especially pancakes.

"His barbecued salmon with ginger and thyme and his world-famous pancakes were awesome," a website quoted Paltrow as saying.

"It is hard for me to eat them because I keep expecting him to walk into the kitchen when I do.

I make them very rarely and I cry every time. They are the essence of him in a food," she added. — IANS


Off limits: Manasi Parekh No Chhote Miyaan for Manasi

There were rumours that after winning Rockstar, Mansi Parekh would turn host on Colors’ Chhote Miyan Season 3. But now the buzz is that she won’t be doing the show anymore as she has date issues. The shooting was scheduled for January but now has been preponed to December end which is tough for her to accommodate.

Sticking ground

Ram Milaayi Jodi’s heroine Sara Khan is looking at Bollywood now. After bagging an item number in a Bengali movie, she will debut in a Hindi film called Rainbow. She plays Ranvir’s (Mayur) girlfriend in the film and how her life changes when he dies in an accident. Super excited about her filmy debut, Sara has promised her fans that she would never quit TV.

Laado’s new shift

Colors’ channel seems to be overhauling their afternoon and early evening slots which is why after shifting Laado, Hamari Saas Leela and Laagi Tuhje Se Lagan to afternoon, now they have decided to end the other two shows while shifting Laado to an early evening slot. Colors doesn’t want to air any shows in the afternoon slot and will be happy with re-runs. As Laado got better TRPs than the rest, it will be shifted to January 7.

Payback time: Ekta Kapor Ekta pays Bandini’s author

Novelist Varsha Adalja filed a complaint against Balaji Telefilms with The Film Writers Association claiming they used her Gujarati novel Retpankhi as an inspiration for their TV series Bandini starring Ronit Roy and Aasiya Kazi. After a two year long battle, Varsha won and got a payment of Rs 7.5 lakh.

Payback time: Ekta Kapor

Moving on: Jennifer Winget Jenifer’s film debut

Popular TV actress and host Jenifer Winget has signed her debut film. She will be seen in Rahet Kazmi’s directorial venture Love Kia Aur Lag Gai with Vinod Dixit, Devender Singh, Gagandeep Singh, Saurabh Shukla, Mushtaq Khan, Jawed Sheikh, Mukesh tiwari and Pawan Malhotra. Produced by Hareesh Sharma, the film will be shot in Delhi.

Moving on: Jennifer Winget

Gracefully yours: Sakshi Tanwar and Salman Khan When Sakshi met Salman

It is a rare moment when you see a star lighting up when they spot another star and the same happened to telly’s hit heroine Sakshi Tanwar who was getting ready to pose for the shutterbugs when Salman Khan walked in and stole the limelight. She was all smiles and waited for her turn. They even exchanged smiles and greetings. Cho Chweet!

Gracefully yours: Sakshi Tanwar and Salman Khan

Kitchen king: Andrew Symonds Andrew enjoyed Bigg Boss

Former Australian cricketer Andrew Symonds who exited Bigg Boss recently claims to be glad with the stint as he learnt how to make rotis and curries in his 11-day stay.

He also got an opportunity to interact with Indians and learn more about them.

He did have a tough time with the language in the house but he had fun too.

Kitchen king: Andrew Symonds

It’s a circus out there

With the New Year around the corner, Comedy Circus will ring in the New Year with a special episode and superb performances. Sexy Rakhi Sawant, Rashmi Desai and Nandish Sandhu and Aishwarya Sakhuja and Ravi Dubey will dance and make merry with their fans by welcoming 2012. The hottest number touted to be is Aishwarya and Ravi’s salsa.

Will Ved confess his love?

After a long drawn drama, Toasty (Aishwarya Sakhuja) and Tej (Ravi Dubey) were persuading Ved (Rishi Khurana) to admit his love for Nitika (Shruti Bapna) with the help of Damini (Aanchal Sabharwal).

But now a bigger task lies ahead as he has to convince Nitika about his love for her and her parents as well.

Changed slots

With Balaji’s Mona Singh-starrer Bas Itni Si Baat launching January 16, buzz is that it will be on air at the 10 pm slot. Saas Bina Sasuraal will be shifted to 8.30 pm.

Golmaal again: Ajay Devgn Devgn goes on

Ajay Devgn is working in the fourth installment of the Golmaal series with director Rohit Shetty. The fans are elated!

Golmaal again: Ajay Devgn

Happy life: Bipasha Basu and Rana Daggubatti New innings

Bipasha Basu will bring in the New Year in Goa with "good friend" Rana Daggubatti. They are attending the Sunburn festival.

Happy life: Bipasha Basu and Rana Daggubatti

No Munnabhai?

Rajkumar Hirani may not direct the second sequel of the Munnabhai series. There were also stories of Sanjay Dutt and Arshad Warsi having become too old to do the film. Let us see what happens!

Fancy trip: Jackky Bhagnani Jackky loves cars

Jackky Bhagnani loves cars. He has purchased a sparkling white new Porsche Cayenne and a 1947 Ford Jeep. He is going to Goa with his friends for the Sunburn Festival.

Fancy trip: Jackky Bhagnani

Bollywood bound: Heather GrahamFresh turf

Hollywood hottie Heather Graham (remember her from The Hangover) may do a Bollywood film with Shah Rukh Khan which will mark her Bollywood debut. She turned down Dhoom 3.

Bollywood bound: Heather Graham

Holiday time: Arjun RampalWell earned vacation

Arjun Rampal has gone on a vacation with his wife Mehr and daughters Mahika and Myra. He has had a busy and rewarding year with movies and television shows.

Holiday time: Arjun Rampal

P Khurrana

ARIES: Your card Eight of Wands suggests that extra money is likely to come from somewhere. You will start off in a confident, optimistic mood. Life is not likely to run according to your plan. At home all is likely to run well. Tarot message: Take time before reacting. Lucky colour: Deep Red. Magic number: 40

TAURUS: There is breathing space now to get your act together and clear your mind. Stay focused on business because that’s what will pay dividends. Romance could lead to much turmoil and upheaval. Tarot message: New offers must be put on hold as their outcome is uncertain. Lucky colour: Creamy white. Magic number: 29

GEMINI: Reckless spending will be a cause for regret. So, no matter how tempting or urgent the purchase may be, think twice before pulling out your credit card or handing over the cash. Tarot message: Consolidate your gains instead of throwing security to the winds. Lucky colour: Purple. Magic number: 52

CANCER: Though you have sufficient funds but stick to window shopping. Arrangements you made to meet with friends can change at the last moment. Pay bills so that you can work out exactly where you stand financially. Tarot message: Minor official pin pricks are better ignored. Lucky colour: Ebony. Magic number: 26

LEO: You will enjoy tidying up and sorting all your paper work into coherent order, which may involve paying bills or arranging for extra credit. Try to be true to your feelings. Tarot message: Be positive; you can make things happen out of the most unlikely circumstances. Lucky colour: Crimson. Magic number: 32

VIRGO: Do not bottle up emotions and become agitated. Plan some fun and relaxation with your loved ones and leave stress behind. You will want to avoid any future problems where health is concerned. Tarot message: Look at the overall cost of things and try to balance your budget. Lucky colour: Orange. Magic number: 42

LIBRA: Your personal skills and style of working are likely to shine and be noticed. A financial matter that has been delayed should be taken forward now. You may receive a romantic proposition. Tarot message: Don’t be dismissive of advice from youth. Lucky colour: Peach. Magic number: 28

SCORPIO: Lots of secrets and undercover scenarios can make for an interesting day. Your partner could talk to you into taking a vacation together or indulging in some gym or dance classes for fun. Tarot message: Take one step at a time and avoid being hurried and over anxious. Lucky colour: Pink. Magic number: 64

SAGITTARIUS: Smile, a day when dreams come true. That may seem an exaggeration but if you believe in something with enough heart and hope, it might just happen. You are in a position to move and motivate others. Tarot message: You will not get away with wrongful doings. Lucky colour: Saffron. Magic number: 30

CAPRICORN: Career affairs can create a triumphant climax. You are in an ideal job, doing what you have and showing the world just how capable you are. Your spouse is likely to be erratic. Tarot message: There are times in a relationship when it is wiser to be silent. Lucky colour: Silver grey. Magic number: 27

AQUARIUS: The Page of Swords reveals that you are noted for your resilience. Romance takes a turn for the better. Keep extra cash in hand to cope with additional expenses. Tarot message: Spend time meeting experienced people. Lucky colour: Rainbow Pastels. Magic number: 63

PISCES: You appear to need more clarity and openness in financial or business matters. It is important that you get expert advice to help you sort out the problem. Tarot message: Don’t waste an opportunity by not exploiting a contact even if it is from your past. Lucky colour: Brown. Magic number: 51

Madan Gupta Spatu

If your birthday is December 25...

You are lucky enough that your birthday is celebrated by maximum people in the world. Of course, it’s Christmas! There is the possibility that you could be reliving old patterns from your childhood. These might surface in either in a family situation or among your friends. It looks like December could be a good month to stay home - but no, there are too many other people who want to encourage you to get out and get involved for the purpose of self-improvement. This is a fine time for purchasing electronic equipment, books, file cabinets or anything that improves your life through technology. You can ask for favors from banking institutions and accountants.  You’ve got a window into the struggles of others, particularly those from different backgrounds. A boss will notice your commitment and dedication, be grateful and grow professionally. A heated disagreement is likely regarding domestic issues - deal with it.

You’ll receive reassuring news, which will let you hold your head high and confirm your iron will. You’ll be impulsive; try not to be swayed by feelings but act carefully to avoid making mistakes and facing the consequences. Venus will bring a breath of fresh air into your relationship, so you’ll be helpful and loving towards your beloved. Even if you know you are right, stubbornness will cause harm and conflict.

An opportunity to start a new venture with quick financial gains is also on the cards.

Mood: Focused on necessities.

Compatible signs: Capricorn, Leo.

Lucky colours: Golden red, Sky blue.

Lucky days: Friday and Sunday.

Raju SrivastavLucky numbers: 5, 9, 16, 22, 25.

Lucky gem: Opal

Lucky flower: Rosebud (red)

Raju Srivastav (December 25, 1963, born Satyaprakash Srivastava in Kanpur) belongs to middle class Kayastha family. He gained initial stardom as an Amitabh Bachchan look-alike and also imitated him very well. He bagged a small role in Maine Pyar Kiya. Raju was a participant in Bigg Boss (Season 3), which was anchored by Amitabh Bachchan. His big break, however, was with The Great Indian Laughter Challenge. Raju’s daughter Antra Srivastava has bagged a National Bravery Award. Mercury in his birth-scope is exalted, which predicts a bright future after 2015.

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